The Su Cheng Foodstuffs Co in Changzhou, a city in wealthy Jiangsu province, has been investigated by police for using chemical additives and pig’s blood to make chicken and pork look like beef.
A police investigation is expected to lead to a trial this summer of company boss Sun Mou, his wife and seven workers who staffed the firm. Local police also arrested 34 people from distribution and supermarket chains in their investigations.
Photos released to local media by police show a workshop, not unlike a butcher’s shop, with plastic boxes of cubed meat on cutting tables as well as containers that are identified as “additives”.
Su Cheng, which appears to have been active between 2012 and 2014, came to police attention when an officer in Changzhou’s HeHai district went to investigate a case of cheap beef in the district wet market.
According to police documents, the officer, surnamed Liu, purchased the ‘tenderloin beef’ for RMB26/500g – not overly cheaper than other beef on sale in the market – and had it tested at the provincial Jiangsu police college. The beef, said officer Liu, was “very salty and very tender” compared to other beef.
The beef, and further samples from wet markets and supermarkets across Changzhou, were all found to be chicken and pork – though some of the stock from supermarkets was found to have traces of beef.
Su Cheng boss Sun Mou claimed he had worked in meat processing companies before he opened his own firm on seeing fast-rising beef prices in 2012 – according to police, who appear to have released details from the investigation in a bid to warn consumers and would-be meat counterfeiters.
News of fake beef is now “incessant” in China, according to a spokesman for Anhui Lu Xin Agricultural Technology Co, which provides equipment for testing meat. In many cases small-scale restaurants doctor the meat, selling pork as beef to make higher profits, said the spokesman, surnamed Wang.
In other cases the culprits were semi-professional workshops, such as in the Su Cheng case. “Fake beef is tender and easy to cut, it’s also often sweet-smelling,” added Wang.
While some of the additives are ultimately carcinogenic, there has been a debate in the local press about the safety of doctored meat, with debates over the harmfulness to human health of poultry and pork dressed up as beef. However, the main Changzhou daily newspaper has lashed out at the incompetence of authorities to detect firms like Su Cheng.
The newspaper’s editorial questioned whether official corruption and bribery was allowing criminal gangs to produce fake meat. It put the Su Cheng case on a par with cases in Southern China where criminal gangs were found to have butchered dead or ill pigs discarded from farms for human consumption.